If there was one thing he detested above all others, it was paying an inflated tourism rate at foreign hotels and restaurants. He called and emailed friends, friends-of-friends and any connections he could get before booking a trip, making sure to get exact prices for services and residences. Then, armed with those numbers, he negotiated expertly at the check-in desks, cash registers, markets, bazaars and various internet cafes around any number of foreign cities. He was confident that he never paid a nickel more than any gado-gado, artisan cheese, tom yum or kimchi was worth. His co-workers tried to explain to him that of course tourist rates were going to be higher than for locals in most developing countries – that was how people made their livings, the dollar was worth more than most of their currencies, tourism was a boon to their economies – but AJ didn’t give a shit. If he was going to travel he was going to travel like a native, and that meant getting exactly the same prices and treatment as they did at the restaurants and spas. He knew that swaybacked maid he saw in Anguilla wasn’t paying full price to get a hot stone massage. She probably got it for like $50 less than him when she got home from cleaning his hotel and needed to unwind. What a sham international tourism is, he thought with disgust as he typed up his latest spec essay for Conde Nast Traveler.
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